Thursday, 31 December 2015
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (5 Stars)
I know I've seen this film before, but it was a long, long time ago. It must have been on television when I was still living with my parents. It's an old film, made in 1953, before I was born. That gives me a strange feeling, which might be shared by some of my readers. It seems somehow bizarre to see young, attractive people on screen, knowing that they're either dead or very old today.
Let's get the film's title out of the way first. "Gentlemen prefer blondes" is nonsensical in the context of the film. Jane Russell is a brunette, but she gets just as much male attention as her blonde co-star Marilyn Monroe. Do gentlemen really prefer blondes? I doubt it. It would be more accurate to say that gentlemen prefer women with big breasts, but that wouldn't be as catchy as a film title.
Marilyn Monroe made about 30 films in her career, of which I've only seen a few, maybe half a dozen. This is probably her most famous film, alongside "Some like it hot". Despite being an intelligent woman, at the peak of her career (in the 1950's) she was typecast as a dumb blonde. In fact, she's such a dumb blonde that her performances seem like a caricature. Even if Marilyn or someone like her lived today, I couldn't imagine her making films like these. We've become too politically correct. Misguided feminists would complain about the degrading portrayal of women, although I think that it's the men who are really stupid.
The film is about two showgirls, Lorelei (Marilyn Monroe) and Dorothy (Jane Russell). They're best friends, but their attitudes towards men are the exact opposite. Dorothy is attracted to men for their looks, whereas Lorelei is attracted to men for their wealth. It could be argued that they're both shallow, in different ways. Lorelei, for all her apparent lack of intelligence, is the smart one who knows how to manipulate men.
Lorelei has a millionaire boyfriend in New York, Gus. She plans to marry him in Paris, but his father doesn't allow him to travel with her and she goes ahead alone. On the ship she meets a rich old man, Francis Beekman, who owns a diamond mine. He's already married, but that doesn't matter to her, she just wants his money. She affectionately calls him Piggy. Lorelei doesn't need to go all the way to get what she wants. After dancing with him and hugging him she persuades Piggy to give her his wife's diamond tiara, telling the insurance company that it was stolen.
Lorelei's fiancé Gus is a fool, but he isn't a complete fool. Or maybe he is. He hires a private detective to observe her on the ship and in Paris. When he sees the photos of her in an embrace with Piggy he breaks off the engagement. Soon after he changes his mind and travels to Paris to marry her, because he loves her anyway. Lorelei loves him, for the time being at least. He's a millionaire, a perfect catch for her. The film ends with the wedding, but what would have happened in the sequel? If Gus lost all his money in the stock market Lorelei would have looked for a new Piggy to give her what she wanted.
Incidentally, for all her naivety Dorothy is also aware of the power of Woman. Speaking to Lorelei about the detective she says, "If we can't empty his pockets between us we're not worthy of the name woman".